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Smith, (Sir) George Adam 
Syria and the Holy Land, 


S Y R I A 




The Very Rev. Sir George Adam Smith 

Kt., M.A., D.D., Litt.D., F.B.A., 

Principal of Aberdeen University. 

Author of "Historical Geography of the Holy Land" 

"Jerusalem : the Topography, Economics, and History? 

11 The Early Poetry of Israel" etc. 



I 9 I 8 





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Kt., M.A., D.D., Litt.D., F.B.A. 

Principal of Aberdeen University 

Author of " Historical Geography of the Holy Land" 

'* Jerusalem : the Topography, Economics, and History" 

u The Early Poetry of Israel" etc. 


\S. lo. 5\ 






The History 5-9 

The Names 9-11 

Boundaries — External and Internal . . . 11-14 

The Coast 14-16 

The Maritime Plain 16-18 

The Western Range 18-24 

The Orontes-J ordan-Arabah Valley . . . 24-27 

The Eastern Range 27-32 

The Discredited Turk 32-34 

The Duties of his Successor 34 

The Recovery of the Land 35-38 

The Native Peasantry or Fellahin . .38-41 

The Claims of the Jews 41-47 

Religious Questions 47-48 

Economic Questions ....... 48-49 

The Limits of the Jewish Area .... 49-52 

The Frontiers of New Syria 53-55 

Epilogue 55-56 


Syria, Mesopotamia and Adjacent 

Lands Frontispiece 

Palestine, Ancient and Modern . At end of book 




SYRIA, chiefly because she includes Phoenicia and 
Palestine, has been of greater significance to 
mankind, spiritually and materially, than any other 
single country in the world. 

The home of two of the monotheisms which have 
spread round the earth, and close neighbour to that of 
the third, Syria holds sites sacred to them all, and is 
still the resort of their pilgrims from nearly every 
nation under the sun. To the farthest Christian the 
land is almost as familiar as his own ; his Bible is 
her geography from Beersheba to Antioch, and her history 
from Abraham to Paul. Above all, she is the land of 
his Lord's Nativity, Ministry, Cross and Resurrection; 
for the traditional scenes of which Christian sects have 
fought with each other or held a jealous truce under the 
contemptuous patronage of the Turk. To the Jew and 
the Mohammedan equally with the Christian, Jerusalem 
is " The Holy City." The Rock, from which rose the 
great Altar in front of the Temple of Israel, is for the 
heart of the Moslem the spot on which his Prophet 
prayed, and inferior in sanctity only to the Kaaba of 
Mecca. In Hebron, the Jew, the Christian, and the 
Mohammedan have, each in his turn, built and dedicated 
the Sanctuary which covers the tombs of the common 
Fathers of their Faiths. The nerves of all three 
religions still quiver in the soil of Syria, and 
sometimes round the same stones. We can feel the 


acuteness of the problems which thus arise in her 
administration. They have been complicated by 
the political envies and intrigues of half Asia and 
all Europe. 

Nowhere else has so much history run into or through 
so narrow a space. The storm-centre of the Ancient 
East, the debatable ground between its rival Empires 
in Mesopotamia and on the Nile, and between their 
Greek successors, the Seleucids and Ptolemies, Syria 
was for three thousand years the field upon which their 
civilisations clashed, mingled and found a common 
deflection to the West by the islands of the Mediter- 
ranean. Open eastward to Arabia, Syria has drawn 
the substance of her populations from the hordes which 
that fertile mother but indigent nurse of men is ever 
ready to foist upon the comparative abundance of her 
neighbours. The slender Syrian fringes towards the 
desert, over which at other times those hordes have 
easily drifted, were built by the Romans into the eastern 
Limes of their Empire ; and within this bulwark 
the land flourished to the aspect of a second Greece. 
Syria similarly served the Byzantines. 

On the decay of the Byzantine Empire she formed the 
first prey of the Moslem conquerors (634-840 a.d.), pro- 
vided for nearly a century the seat of the Khalifate 
(661-750), relapsed between the African and Asiatic 
rivals for that office into her old debatableness for three 
centuries more, and then for the second time became, as 
she was predestined to be, the field of decision between 
the Cross and the Crescent. The Frankish kingdom of 
Jerusalem lasted for only eighty-eight years (1098-1187), 
yet its relics are almost as numerous on the land to-day 
as those of the Roman Empire. Gradually all Syria 
fell back to the Mohammedans, and in 1517 became a 
province of the Turkish Empire, since when she has 
had hardly any annals save the marks of her steady 

In 1799 Napoleon, in his ambition to conquer Asia, 


marched from Egypt up the coast as far as Esdraelon, 
but was forced back the following year. From 1832 
to 1840 southern Syria came under the power of 
Mohammed Ali, ruler of Egypt, but was recovered by 
the Turks with British assistance. In 1880 another 
French army, disembarking at Beyrout, liberated the 
Christians of Lebanon, secured for them under European 
guarantees a separate administration with a Governor 
of their own faith, and laid to Damascus the first good 
road the land had known since the Romans left. 

The military history of Syria may be pictured as the 
procession of nearly all the world's conquerors : — 
Thothmes, Tiglath-Pileser, Sargon, Sennacherib and 
Nebuchadrezzar; Cambyses and Alexander; Pompey, 
Caesar, Augustus, Titus and Hadrian ; Omar and Saladin ; 
Tamerlane ; Napoleon. And now again she is one of 
the fronts on which two ideals of civilisation and empire 
oppose their arms, but with issues more momentous 
for humanity than were ever fought out on these same 
fields between Semite and Greek, Rome and the East, 
or Frank and Saracen. 

Nor do religion and war exhaust her importance to 
the world. Syria bred and endowed the people who 
first brought the fruits of Eastern civilisation to Europe, 
taught the nations the value of sea-power, and set them 
an example in transmarine commerce and the planting 
of colonies. 

Phoenicia gave Europe the alphabet (whatever the 
sources of this may have been) and some of the finer 
handicrafts, contributed at intervals to the food of its 
peoples, or furnished them with luxuries, or infected 
them with her own superstitions and vices. Her armour, 
bowls and webs are sung by Homer. Hebrew and Greek 
writers acclaim the wealth of Phoenician industries 
and the size and the range of Phoenician ships. Long 
before the Christian era these galleys had passed the 
Straits of Gibraltar as far at least as the Canaries and 
Scillies ; and had sailed down the Red Sea and along 

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the east coast of Africa. The Phoenician markets 
drew ivory, scented woods, silk and other stuffs from 
India and China, and passed them to the west. Con- 
versely Chinese writings of an early time rate the 
products of Syria, which they call Ta-tsin, above even 
those of Babylon. The incense of southern Arabia 
reached the temples of Greece and Italy through the 
port of Gaza. 

It was the same in the earlier Mohammedan era. 
The Arab geographers, besides praising the fertility of 
Syria — her corn, flax and wool, her oil, wine and figs, 
all indigenous, and her adopted rice, maize, sugar, 
cotton, indigo, oranges, and citrons — magnify her exports 
westward, not only of these products but of porcelain, 
silks, and other fabrics from the Far East. Those were 
the times when in the bazaars of Aleppo goods were 
said to be sold daily to the amount of £10,000. From 
Syrian harbours the ships of Genoa, Pisa and Venice 
carried cargoes not only to Italy and Spain, but after 
the Crusades to the coasts of the Low Countries, and so 
started the prosperity of Antwerp, Bruges and other 
towns of north-western Europe. At most times the land 
has as much deserved the name of " Mediterranean " 
as that sea on which her harbours open, and of whose 
waves she was the first mistress. 

All the languages of Europe bear marks of the Syrian 
commerce. The Greek words " arrabon," interest, 
" mna," a weight, and " kabos," a measure ; " klobos," 
bird-cage, with the names of several animals and 
vegetables ; (some add " Biblos," from the port that 
exported the papyrus) ; " chalkos kuprios," from which 
our copper is derived ; " Tyrian purple " and " Sidon- 
ian looms " ; " Syrian " as the synonym for banker in 
Gaul in the fifth century ; " Jericho balsam "; " damson," 
" damask,* * " damascene, " and the French " damas- 
quinure " ; the mediaeval " charta Damascena," a 
cotton-paper; "cotton," itself; "mohair" and 
"moire," from " muhayyar," the "choice" stuffs of 


Antioch ; " muslin " from Mosul, but through Aleppo ; 
" Latakia ; " " carat " (through Arabic, though previously 
from the Greek); " camlet,' ' "saffron" and "civet"; 
"sherbet," " sorbet " and " syrup," and the " electuaire 
d'Acre " ; probably " sugar," " candy, " "lemon" and 
" orange " (if not through Spain) ; the " shalot " 
from Ascalon, the " carob " or locust-bean ; " lute " 
(Arabic el-'ud) and "rebeck," " ammiral," "arsenal" 
and " douane " — are some reminders of what Syria 
has scattered out of her lap to the extremes of 
Europe, or handed over from the opposite confines of 

These proofs at once of her fertility and of her supreme 
advantage of position are lavish everywhere in her 
history, except under Turkish rule, and are pledges of 
the possibilities of her future when the hands of the 
Turk shall at last have been lifted from her suffering 

The Names 

Before we examine the form of the country a few 
words are needed upon its nomenclature. The names, 
both general and local, have always been elastic, stretch- 
ing and shrinking by turns or even sometimes springing 
to a distance from their original sites. For this there 
are two reasons : the frequency of foreign rule and the 
migrations of the natives. In ignorance or for the 
convenience of administration conquerors have altered 
the areas of the wider names, while the popular usage 
preserved their original limits or but slowly followed 
the official example. And in course of migration due 
to war, famine or pestilence the inhabitants of villages, 
and even of towns, have removed the names of these 
to their new settlements. It need hardly be added 
that in their eagerness to locate Biblical scenes hosts 
of guessing pilgrims have further confused the nomen- 
clature of the Holy Land. 

We owe the name Syria to the Greeks. Tradition 


describes it as an abbreviation of Assyria. But it is 
more probably derived from Suri, the Babylonian 
name for Mesopotamia with Asia Minor as far as the 
Halys and with an uncertain extension south of the 
Euphrates. In partial conformity to this the Greeks 
may at first have meant by Syria everything between 
the Caucasus and Egypt. But the name shrank south 
of the Taurus and Euphrates ; and the Roman province 
of Syria was bounded by that range and river on the 
north, the Levant on the west, the desert which is 
Arabia on the east, and the Wady-el'-Arish — the frontier 
of Egypt — on the south. To all westerners and to the 
native Greeks this practically is the m Syria of to-day. 
The Arabs call it esh-Sham, " The Left " or North of the 
Arabian Peninsula, corresponding to el- Yemen, " The 
Right " or the South. 

From the first three adjectives were added to distin- 
guish the main divisions of the country. Coele — or 
Hollow — Syria, originally the Orontes valley and the 
great trench between the Lebanons, was thence loosely 
stretched over all southern Syria except Phoenicia 
and then (as in Roman times) restricted to Anti- 
Lebanon and the regions beyond Jordan. Phoenician 
Syria and Philistine, or Palestine, Syria were the two 
coastal regions inhabited by those peoples. But first 
in Greek and thence in other European languages these 
adjectives became nouns — Phoenicia and Palestine. 
By a curious diversity of fortune, while the former 
remained within its original limits on the coast from a 
little south of Carmel northwards, Palestine was carried 
east and north till it covered the land to the foot of 
Lebanon and over Jordan to the desert. This is perhaps 
a unique instance of the gradual application to almost 
the whole of a country of the name of a tribe who never 
occupied more than a fraction of its surface and had 
already disappeared from its history. 

The name Canaan — Kena'an, also Kna' — perhaps 
meaning " Lowland," is confined by Babylonian docu- 


ments of the fourteenth century B.C. to Phoenicia, but 
in the form Kenahhi was used by Egyptians of the 
maritime plain from Gaza northwards. Thence, like 
" Palestine," it stretched both in Hebrew and Christian 
use over all the country south of Lebanon. In the Old 
Testament Canaanite means sometimes Phoenician, some- 
times any of the tribes on the plains, as distinguished 
from those on the hills, and sometimes covers all the 
inhabitants whom Israel found in the land ; while " the 
lip of Canaan " was the one language spoken in Palestine 
of which Phoenician, Hebrew and Moabite were little 
more than dialects. 

The name of another ancient tribe, the Amorites, is 
applied by some Old Testament writers to the inhabitants 
before Israel of the Western Range and of part of the 
Eastern, by others to all the pre-Israelite peoples and by 
Babylonian documents to Western Palestine as a whole. 
In the English Old Testament the names "Syria" and 
" Syrians " render the Hebrew Aram, the designation of 
the fourth Semitic race which, with Phoenicians, Hebrews 
and Arabs, has seriously contested the possession of 
the country. Sometimes in ancient literature the name 
Arabia included Syria, just as the Turkish 'Arabistan 
still does ; but Arabia is properly everything to the 
south and east of Syria. 

Boundaries — External and Internal 

The natural boundaries of Syria have been stated : 
N., the Euphrates and the Taurus Range ; W., the 
Levant ; E., the Arabian Desert ; and S., the 
Desert of Egypt, on a line drawn from Rafa or 
el'Arish to the head of the Gulf of Akaba. These 
enclose some 400 miles N. and S. by 70 to 100 W. 
and E. 

The form of the land may be generally described as 
on five parallel lines running N. and S. between the 
Sea and the Desert, as shown overleaf. 








The Orontes- 

Western j Jordan- 
Range. I Arabah- 




But these lines are neither regular nor uniform. 
Each has modifications of direction, of level and of char- 
acter, which give the surface of the land a complicated 
variety and have always divided its populations both 
politically and economically. Like Switzerland, Syria 
has within herself natural frontiers more definite than 
some of those which separate her from the neighbouring 
countries. Two such cross-divisions are to be emphasised 
above the rest, not because they are the greatest (for 
they are not), but because they effect a convenient parti- 
tion of Syria into three provinces. 

The first is just N. of Tripoli, where the Western 
Range is cleft by the Nahr el-Kebir, which sharply 
distinguishes the Nusairiyeh portion of the range from 
the Lebanons ; as the Eleutherus of the Greeks, this 
river frequently formed a political frontier. And the 
second is just N. of Tyre, the Nahr el-Kasimiyeh, which 
also cleaves the Western Range separating Lebanon 
from the hills of Galilee and then bends N. into the 
Beka' or valley between the Lebanons, while its main 
direction W. to E. is fairly continued over Jordan by 
the foot of Anti-Lebanon round to Damascus. There 
are thus three distinct divisions : 


Northern Syria: 

From the Taurus to the Nahr el-Kebir. 

The Lebanons : with Damascus. 

Palestine : 

From the Nahr el-Kasimiyeh to the W. el-'Arish. 


This last is further divided by the Plain of Esdraelon, 
interrupting the Western Range and affording a broad 
access from the coast to the Jordan Valley and Eastern 
Palestine, but seldom an effective border ; and by 
Mount Carmel, shooting over from the Western Range 
to the sea and separating Esdraelon from the Maritime 
Plain, but never either a military or a political frontier. 
The rest of the Western Range passes imperceptibly 
from the hills and valleys of Samaria to the compact 
tableland of Judaea, along which it is separated from 
the Maritime Plain by the lower but distinct range of 
the Shephelah ; and descends very gradually upon 
what the Hebrews called the Negeb. 

Nor has even that most singular feature of the earth's 
surface, the Orontes-Jordan Valley, continued by the 
Arabah to the Red Sea, proved a strong frontier, except 
at its deepest part where it is filled by the Dead Sea. For 
the fertility of the part of it called the Beka' links 
rather than divides the Lebanons ; the upper Jordan 
and its lakes have not always separated Galilee from 
Jaulan and Hauran ; generally Gilead and some- 
times even Moab belonged to Samaria, and under the 
Turks Gilead at least has been administered from 
Nablus ; while, further south, the ancient Edom lay 
on both sides of the Arabah and to-day the same Arab 
tribes pasture their flocks in each region at different 

On the Eastern Range, which rises only south of the 
Nahr el-Kebir, there is across Anti-Lebanon a high valley 
or pass (4,500 feet) that gives access from the Beka' 
to Damascus down the course of the Abana. The 
southern skirts of Hermon, falling steeply to the 
tableland of Hauran, mark a border between different 
forms of culture, and a demarcation convenient for 
minor political purposes, but they are not a real frontier. 
The volcanic Hauran again is separated from the lime- 
stone Gilead by the abrupt rift through which the 
Yarmuk flows, an ethnic and political border nearly 


always in ancient times. Gilead's hills pass imper- 
ceptibly into the plateau of Moab, as Samaria's into that 
of Judaea, but on the south of Moab there are two suc- 
cessive trenches, the Wady Mo jib, the ancient Arnon 
2,000 feet deep, and the Wady el-Hesi less deep and 
abrupt, both of which have proved historical frontiers. 
In any political re-distribution of Syria all these 
features must be taken into account. 

The Coast 

In general the Coast is one of the straightest in the 
world, with no deep estuary or gulf (save at the extreme 
north), and no protecting island of any size. But the 
part of it south of Mount Carmel differs substantially 
from that to the north. From Carmel to the Delta 
of the Nile is a stretch of sandhills and low rocks, with 
the mountains well back from the sea, and no broad 
river mouth or other natural harbour. The prevailing 
winds are from the S.W., and, with strong sea-currents 
from the same direction carrying the Nile mud, have 
always tended to silt up the outlets of the small streams, 
and the one or two artificial harbours, which like 
Herod's Caesarea have been urged upon so inhospitable 
a shore. Alexander wisely built his great port at the 
west instead of at the east or Pelusiac end of the Delta. 
At Carmel and northwards, where the hills draw to 
the coast, short capes jut out, there are bays, sheltered 
some from two directions, some from only one ; and a 
few islets form harbours sufficient for the largest ships 
of antiquity. 

We see why the Phoenician power gathered and flour- 
ished just here, for besides the protection for shipping 
the sands are rife with materials for glass, and the 
shallow waters teem with fish, sponges, and the murex, 
the source of the purple ; metal and timber once 
abounded in the hills, and round or through these there is 
access to the grain fields of the interior, and to Damascus 


and Aleppo. How humble the beginnings of Phoenicia 
were may be perceived from the names of its towns : 
Akka perhaps only "hot sands"; Tyre, "Rock"; Sidon, 
" Fishing-place " ; the later Zarephath, " Smelting 
place " ; and Beyrout, " Wells." South of Carmel the 
ships of to-day must ride at some distance off Jaffa 
when discharging their cargoes and as yet even off 
Haifa. But they can anchor more securely in the 
harbour of Beyrout behind its great cape and within 
two moles thrown out from this. 

Jaffa, the port for Jerusalem, and for the grains and 
fruits of Phiiistia and Sharon, had in 1910 exports over 
£600,000 and imports of one million sterling ; in 1912 
these together are said to have risen to £2,080,000. 
Haifa is nearest, and has access by rail, to the wheat- 
fields of Esdraelon and Hauran, with annual exports 
before the war of £200,000 and imports of £600,000. 
Beyrout concentrates the silk manufactures of 
Lebanon, most of the local trade of Tyre and Sidon, 
and by rail and road a large part of the trade of Damas- 
cus ; its exports, mostly raw silk for Marseilles, were 
reckoned in 1910 to be over £800,000, and its imports 
two millions sterling. 1 At Tripoli, so called because it 
was the seat of the Phoenician League, Tyre-Sidon- 
Arvad, there are even greater possibilities of a good port 
than at Beyrout ; for a string of islets hangs off its cape, 
and Tripoli has access to Aleppo up the Nahr el-Kebir 
with the promise, if not already the fact, of a railway. 
Its annual imports are said to be £300,000 and its 
exports £400,000. 

Northwards Marathus and Antaradus were the main- 
land settlements of the Phoenician island Arvad, now 
Ruad ; and Antaradus, as Tortosa (now Tartus), 
also flourished under the Crusaders. Latakia, the 

1 About 10 in. N. of Beyrout and connected by a good road 
and a light railway lies Juneh, a flourishing little town, whose 
harbour attracts sailing vessels and gives promise of greater 

c 2 


ancient Laodicea-ad-mare, has a small harbour, protected 
from the north by a cape ; it prospered in the early 
Christian period as the port of Antioch, and still carries 
on a considerable trade in tobacco, sponges and silk. 
Ruins and a choked harbour are all that remain of 
Seleucia, Antioch's previous port in Greek times. 
Lastly, Alexandretta, the safest and most convenient 
harbour on the coast but troubled with fever, com- 
mands an import and export trade of the combined 
value of three millions sterling ; inland it traffics with 
Aleppo, and is to be, if it is not already, connected with 
the Baghdad railway. 

The Maritime Plain 

The second of the parallel lines on which Syria is 
disposed, is not continuous. Virtually confined to the 
south of Mount Carmel with a few miles more to the 
north, the maritime plain dwindles to a ribbon between 
Lebanon and the sea, and recovers only in patches 
along the rest of the coast. But its breadth south of 
Carmel is of the highest importance to Syria from both 
a military and an economic point of view, especially 
if we take along with it the short range of the Shephelah 
or " low hills," which intervenes between the plain 
and the abrupt tableland of Judsea. 

On the extreme south, eight or ten sandy marches 
from Egypt, stands Gaza, " the vestibule of Syria," 
and the port and market of the Arabs of the southern 
desert. Thence to Carmel spread some of Syria's most 
fertile fields, and across them runs the main highway of her 
War and traffic. This keeps well inland so as to avoid the 
sands and marshes of the coast, and passes the Philistine 
towns which flourished on its trade but suffered from 
the armies whom its clear course has attracted both 
north and south, as well as from the plagues which 
it has frequently carried out of Egypt. 


This level and famous stage of the route between the 
Nile and Mesopotamia might compass Carmel either by 
the sea or (as most armies and caravans have preferred) 
by one of three easy passes through the low hills be- 
tween Carmel and the western range, on to Esdraelon ; 
whence their march might continue either coastwise by 
the Phoenician cities or inland across Jordan (whether 
south or north of the Lake of Galilee) to Damascus, 
and so to the Euphrates. On the maritime plain this 
road is blessed with fairly sufficient water, and there are 
no great natural obstacles, but it is exposed, as most 
invaders by it have experienced, to attacks down the 
various valleys and slopes which fall from the Western 

The Maritime Plain is very fertile. Philistia and 
Sharon with the wider valleys, that debouch upon them 
from the hills, bear good wheat, millet, vines, oranges, 
citrons, and flourishing vegetables. Date-palms do 
well in the south, and the olive is as fruitful as anywhere 
on the limestone hills of the Shephelah, on which also 
barley-fields are numerous. But these proofs of the 
capacity of the soil render only more obvious the waste, 
the want of public utilities and the poverty of the 
native peasantry. The German and Jewish colonies 
which have been planted since 1868 and 1870 respec- 
tively, are convincing evidence of the wealth every- 
where possible to industry and a little science, were 
there only a government which dealt justly with the 
cultivator and assisted his toil by proper roads, irrigation 
and drainage. The Germans, from Wurttemburg and 
of the Temple sect, introduced better methods of 
agriculture in the belief that the Lord would come to 
the land, when it was made ready for Him ; and the 
example of their practice if not of their faith has been 
followed more powerfully by Jewish settlers, driven 
from eastern Europe by persecution, but equipped by 
capitalists of their own creed. The Germans have two 
colonies, one by Jaffa and one at Haifa under Mount 


Carmel, whose slopes their industry has converted into 
vineyards not unlike those of the Rhine or the Neckar. 

Of the forty-five to fifty Jewish settlements in Pales- 
tine since 1870 — said to have contained before the war 
some 13,000 people — there are ten or eleven near Jaffa 
and southward, and others on the southern slopes of 
Carmel — altogether with a membership of over 6,000. 
The improvements they have effected in spite of the 
obstructions of the government and the agricultural 
inexperience of most of the settlers, have been wonderful, 
as the present writer can testify from a knowledge of 
their progress since 1880. 

They have doubled, and in some cases, trebled the 
annual yield of the acres they cultivate. They have 
laid down new roads. They have introduced new 
stocks of fruit, and by researches at their experimental 
station are said to have developed varieties of grain and 
fruit fitted to withstand the sirocco and other rigours 
of the climate. They have reduced the fevers of some 
swampy districts by a lavish planting of eucalyptus, 
known to the Arabs as " the Jews' tree." In part they 
have overcome the menace of the drifting sands of the 
coast. Their exports of wine to Europe had already 
become considerable. The influence of their example 
upon the native peasantry may be appreciated. 

Esdraelon, which carries the same conditions of 
fertility almost as far inland as Jordan, is in its western 
half one vast wheat field : now partly the property of 
the Sultan and partly that of a wealthy Greek family. 
But I understand that just before the war a Jewish 
colony or two had been planted on its margin. 

The Western Range 

The mountain-ranges of Syria present an extra- 
ordinary variety of height and of surface. From the 
heated coasts and valleys at their skirts they rise in 


parts to over ten thousand feet, at which in that lati- 
tude the snow seldom disappears. Besides the natural 
terraces afforded by the limestone structure of their 
slopes, the ranges contain an unusually large proportion 
of high valleys and table-lands of considerable fertility, 
buttressed or surmounted by steep bare ridges. From 
all this have arisen many facts of political and economic 

The mountains of Syria have not only been the last 
of her lines to fall to foreign invaders — except in the 
singular case of Israel. Throughout her troubled history 
they have also been the refuges of the more independent 
and therefore intelligent and enterprising elements 
of her native population. And both in the Greek 
Period and in modern times they have attracted 
settlers from the west. Therefore, we find on them 
to-day a great variety of the smaller races and 
sects. There is often a less scattered population, 
with more people to the square mile, than on some 
of the richer plains below. And while in parts agri- 
culture and industry flourish, in parts also these have 
been pushed up to levels where nature gives them 
little encouragement, and the only reason why men 
should live and labour on such shelves is the absence of 
security below. Since 1880 there has been a con- 
siderable emigration from the Syrian mountains to 
America and Australia. When Syria once more enjoys 
a just government there may follow by migration to 
the plains a still further abandonment of some of the 
loftier levels on which agriculture is now precariously 

All this is especially true of the Western Range. 

Starting (as has been said) from the Taurus, the 
Western Range runs, as the Giaour Dagh, south to the 
Orontes and close to the coast on a general height of 
from four to six thousand feet, but with loftier peaks. 
This was the Mons Amanus of the ancients, the boundary 
between Syria and Cilicia, and its chief pass (by Beilan) 


was known as the Syrian Gate. Its slopes are favour- 
able to the vine and other fruits, parts are covered with 
evergreen, oaks, and firs ; streams abound, and the 
range is crossed by roads from Alexandretta to Antioch 
and Aleppo, the Beilan pass still the easiest. 

South of the Orontes, the range bears the name Jebel 
en-Nusairiyeh, till its next break in the valley of the 
Nahr el-Kebir. Besides the bare Jebel Akra it consists 
of a series of limestone hills clothed with pines, oaks, 
and various shrubs, and of valleys with clear streams, 
strips of corn-land and olive orchards. There is much 
good grass. The inhabitants, not Semitic but of the 
Iranian type, and practising a variety of the Moham- 
medan religion, mixed with Pagan and Christian 
elements, have an evil reputation, but are said by 
travellers to cultivate their lands and parts of the neigh- 
bouring plains with a care and neatness beyond other 
natives of Syria. They live in scattered hamlets. 

South of the Nahr el-Kebir the range bears the name of 
Lebanon to the Nahr el-Kasimiyeh, just north of Tyre, 
a length of 105 miles. It rises from the narrow coast by 
steep slopes, buttresses and shoulders with many 
terraces, natural and artificial, that are cultivated to 
heights of four, five, or even six and seven thousand feet, 
and it is dotted with villages and monasteries. Wheat 
is said to grow up to 6,000 feet, and vines from 3,000 to 
nearly 5,000 feet, with olives still higher. There are 
many other fruit trees, but the principal culture is that 
of the mulberry, grown for the production of silk 
cocoons. It is reported that in the Lebanon and the 
vilayet of Beyrout there were 132 steam spinning factories 
with 2,250 looms, and that Beyrout annually shipped to 
Marseilles raw silk and cocoons to the value of £800,000. 
Silk is also woven in the mountain for native use. 

Above and behind these cultivated zones Lebanon 
rises to a high bleak ridge, bare or dotted with pines 
and shrub, which shuts out the east, and by its loftiness 
exercises a powerful influence on the climate, not only 


of the slopes below but of the whole of southern Syria. 
The summits of the ridge are Jebel Makmal and Dahr 
el-Kodib above the Cedars (both just over 10,000 feet), 
Jebel Muneitra and Jebel Sannin (over 9,000). From 
this ridge the east side of the range falls steeply, with but 
few villages and far less cultivation than on the west, 
into the Beka'. The Lebanon is crossed by several 
roads including that from Tripoli by the famous Cedars 
to Baalbek over a height of 7,000 feet, and by two 
lower passes, that on which the road and rail from 
Beyrout to Damascus cross the range at about 5,000 
feet, and that by Baruk slightly lower. 

South of Lebanon and the cleft of the Nahr el-Kasi- 
miyeh are the highlands of Galilee, of which Northern or 
Upper Galilee is undulating tableland surrounded by 
hills from 2,000 to 4,000 feet high, and Southern or Lower 
Galilee, parallel ranges below 1,900 feet with broad 
valleys between them, and a few depressions under 500 
feet. Both Galilees are very fertile. There is profusion 
of bush and scattered woodland, proofs of the possi- 
bilities of afforestation, some vines, olives, and stretches 
of arable ground. In ancient times " no part lay 
idle " ; the olives were said to be easier to cultivate 
here than elsewhere in Syria, and the villages and towns 
were frequent. Under good government there might 
be great wealth in Galilee, in a climate singularly happy. 

South of these highlands the Western Range suffers 
its greatest separation (as already noted) in the Plain of 
Esdraelon, which rises little above sea-level between the 
coast and its open descent to the Jordan. 

South of Esdraelon the Western Range rises again 
in the hills and high valleys of Samaria, or Mount 
Ephraim. From summits of 3,000 feet and a watershed 
averaging 2,000, it descends on the Maritime Plain by 
a gentle slope for the most part sterile with infrequent 
breaks of olive-groves and a few villages. The fall of 
the eastern flank is deeper and far more rapid, but it 
relaxes in several broad, fertile valleys. Within these 



flanks the Mount surprises the visitor by the number of 
its small plains, meadows and vales, from one of which, 
the Makhneh, east and south-east of Nablus, comes some 
of the finest wheat in Syria ; the olives and other fruits 
are excellent. A shallow pass cleaves these highlands, 
that which crosses between Ebal and Gerizim, and holds 
Nablus at its centre. Nablus, the ancient Shechem, 
is the natural capital of Palestine in a very fertile district, 
with easy roads both to the coast that is only twenty-six 
miles off, and to the fords of Jordan that are not eigh- 
teen. In olden times Shechem or its successor and 
neighbour, the city of Samaria, held Gilead and even 
Moab in its power, and the Turkish Government for 
long administered from Nablus a great part of eastern 

The Samarian highlands slowly close and slightly 
rise to the compact plateau of Judaea, about 2,000 feet 
high, little more than thirty-five miles long from Bethel 
to the south of Hebron, and from fourteen to eighteen 
broad from its edge above the Shephelah to where on 
the east the level drops below 1,200 feet and into desert. 
Judaea consists largely of stony moorland with rough 
scrub and thorns, but after the winter rains there is con- 
siderable herbage. Sometimes it is less stony with a little 
wheat and more barley. Sometimes it breaks into shallow 
glens with olives, figs and terraces of vines. There is 
no running water. Ancient records, and the ruined 
terraces on the glens and in the defiles leading down 
to the west, testify that once even this, the least attrac- 
tive part of all the Western Range, enjoyed much 
greater fertility. The olive thrives nowhere better than 
at the level, and on the limestone, of Judaea. Both in 
the Jewish and the early Moslem eras oil and wine were 

The Bible emphasises the pastoral character of Judaea, 
and many of its greatest personalities have been shep- 
herds ; yet its cattle are small, and its people used 
to covet the bulls and rams of Bashan and of 


Gilead. Nor are there here any of the physical 
conditions of a great city — neither river nor trunk 
road nor convenient market for the surrounding 
peoples. Moab is shut off by the great gulf of the 
Dead Sea ; and the Arabs of the southern deserts 
resort to Gaza rather than to Hebron. But this 
very aloofness of Judaea guaranteed her security for 
longer periods than was the case with her sister Samaria, 
kept her people more free of alien influences, and 
while concentrating the national mind gave it 
greater opportunity of observing the fates of other 
peoples and the course of history. Jerusalem, though a 
tolerable fortress, is not a natural but a spiritual creation. 
The narrow plateau of Judah reaches its southern edge 
a little to the south of Hebron and thence the range 
rolls gently down in broad undulations, through which 
the Wady Khulil winds, to Beersheba. There is still 
considerable farming as far as Dhoheriyah, the ancient 
Debir, some eleven miles from Hebron, with a few 
springs, pools, and in the rainy season even streams. 
From Dhoheriyah to Beersheba is a slope, much less 
fertile, of about sixteen miles more. This forms as easy 
an approach to Judaea as any, and during the Jewish 
Exile its villages were gradually overrun by an Edomite 
drift from the south-east. Yet it was seldom, if ever, used 
by invaders with the plateau as their objective ; for 
to the south of it across the Negeb lie east and west the 
steep and haggard ridges of the desert, while the plains 
of Philistia, even though they offer but few and 
narrow avenues to Jerusalem, have always been 
more attractive, for one reason or another, both to the 
desert nomads and to armies from Egypt. 

The Negeb, as the Hebrews called it, the Parched 
Land — the name is wrongly rendered " the South " in 
the authorised version of the Old Testament — begins 
about Dhoheriyah with the decrease of fertility and, 
falling from about 1,500 feet to (in parts) 500 above the 
sea, extends to some twenty miles beyond Beersheba. 

D 2 


Save in patches this is a region of apparently sterile soil 
with wadies that lie dry for the greater part of the year, 
but under the rains suddenly brim with torrents. For 
centuries the Negeb has held no settled life save about 
the wells of Beersheba, and this only in recent years. 
Arab nomads sow fractions of it with barley or millet 
and reap the most meagre of crops, which south of the 
Wady Sheriyah are said to fail totally every third year. 
But the ruins of many villages — some of them small 
towns with a careful architecture — and of terraces in- 
dicative of cultivation, which mostly date from the 
Byzantine period, prove that even the Negeb has its 
possibilities under a good government. The wasted 
winter floods could be stored, and there are probably 
many wadies in which water might be drawn by digging 
for it. But so long as insecurity prevails, wells are 

The Orontes-Jordan-Arabah Valley. 

The fourth of the parallel lines of Syria is part of a 
great " fault " extending from Armenia to the Gulf of 
Akaba on the Red Sea, and containing the deepest 
trench on the earth's surface. This begins at Lake 
Huleh, which is just 7 feet above sea-level, falls to the 
Dead Sea, whose surface is 1,292 feet below the sea, and 
its bottom 1,300 lower still, and rises again to the sea- 
level some thirty-five miles further south in the Arabah. 

We may start with this line in the neighbourhood of 
Antioch, where the Orontes (present name el-'Asi) 
leaves it to cut through the Western Range to the sea. 
Here is a broadish plain, el-Amk (the Unki of the 
Assyrians), none of it 600 feet above sea-level and 
extremely rich. The ancient prosperity of Antioch, to 
which vast ruins still testify, was due only in part to 
this fertility ; the rest came from through-traffic to 
the Levant, most of which was long ago lost. From 
Antioch the valley of the Orontes ascends very slowly 


between the Western Range and the edge of the high 
plateau of N. Syria ; the ruins of ancient townships — 
averaging, it is said, one to the mile — are proofs of its 
natural resources and melancholy protests against the 
incompetence of the Turkish Government. 

At Hama (IXamath, 1,015 feet), an administrative 
centre with 80,000 inhabitants, good grazing lands, 
manufactures of cloth and leather, and considerable 
trade with the Arabs of the neighbouring desert, the 
valley is reached by the Aleppo railway, which it carries 
on to the Beka 4 . Further on, from Horns (Emesa, 1,660 
feet), also a market for the Beduin, with rich gardens 
and fields and a temperate climate, a railway diverges 
to Tripoli by the Nahr el-Kebir, and it is also possible 
to reach Palmyra in five days by carriage over the level 
desert. After Horns the valley becomes the Beka' or 
" Cleft " between the great Lebanons, and, varying in 
breadth from 6 to 7 miles, rises to over 3,770 feet at the 
sources of the Orontes about Baalbek. Large parts 
of this stretch are hard and sterile ; there are fewer 
villages and ancient ruins, but considerable pasture. 

About Baalbek is the watershed, streams start south, 
the Nahr el-Litani begins. The Beka 4 becomes very 
fertile, but even under the western enterprise of recent 
years it is only partially cultivated. Its ancient wealth 
must have been far greater. Vines and other fruits 
flourish, there are good trees and great possibilities for 
timber, room and fit soil for wheat, and during 
most of the year temperate airs. The breadth is from 
8 to 10 miles. 

From the S. end of the Beka' the Litani breaks in a 
passage of its own to the S.W. and W., to bound (as the 
Kasimiyeh) the Lebanon. But we follow the main 
" fault " south to where Jordan rises. The land here, 
about Hasbeya, is singularly rich in olives and vines at 
a level of rather over 2,000 feet. Then the descent is 
rapid through good wheat lands, once well-cultivated, 
well-watered meadows with oaks and other large trees 


to the marshes and jungles of papyrus about Lake 
Huleh (7 feet above the sea), with a Jewish agri- 
cultural colony, and thence over rugged country to the 
Lake of Galilee (682 feet below sea-level). On the 
N.W. shore of the Lake lies the rich warm plain of 
Gennesaret, whose ancient wealth of fruit-trees and corn 
might easily be restored by drainage and irrigation. 
The fisheries of the Lake have always been rich ;. once 
the pickled fish carried its name to the markets of Rome. 
From the Lake of Galilee to the Dead Sea the length of 
the Jordan Valley is some 65 miles, with a breadth 
varying from 3 to 14 — most of it good soil save in the 
wider bed which the river fills in spring and which is 
mainly mud and jungle with a broad margin of dead 

No part of Syria shows more signal proofs of the 
mingled neglect and oppression of the Turk. In the 
upper portion about Beisan (Bethshan) flax abounded 
in the Roman period — the linen of Bethshan was then 
famous — and maize and rice were plentiful in the 
Mohammedan era. Lower down, towards Jericho, 
groves of the date-palm stretched for miles, there were 
gardens of balsam farmed by the Roman Government, 
and before and during the Crusades the sugar-cane 
was cultivated. Wheat grows well in many parts — up 
to the stirrups of the rider on the broad plains opposite 
Jericho. A large part of the Ghor, as this stretch of the 
valley is called, was appropriated by the last Sultan, 
and to that Imperial act are due a few recent im- 
provements in its cultivation. 

How much more might be effected by a system of 
irrigation — less from the Jordan itself, for its bed is 
deep, than from its many tributaries — is not hard to 
estimate. Nowhere would irrigation produce swifter 
or richer results, for the climate is sub-tropical. Wild 
plants and fruits abound in a luxuriance excelled only 
by some of the warmest and wettest valleys of East 
Africa, to the fauna and flora of which those of the 


Gh6r are said to be akin. The few permanent inhabi- 
tants of this hothouse are (outside Jericho) of a blackish, 
fuzzy-haired, almost negroid aspect. But both the 
peasants of Western Palestine and the Arabs of Moab 
annually descend to cultivate portions of the generous 
well-warmed soil. 

The Eastern Range 

The Eastern range has no counterpart to the two 
northmost sections of the Western. It rises from the 
Syrian plateau south of Horns, and first opposes Lebanon 
by Anti-Lebanon in almost equal length and height. 
Anti-Lebanon falls into two parts divided by a broad 
plateau and the gorge of the Barada or Abana river. To 
the north of this is Jebel esh-Sherki, " Eastern Mountain," 
with no conspicuous summit. On its western flank 
falling steeply to the Beka', there is hardly a village. 
The Wady Yahfufeh, which runs up from Reyak in 
the Beka', carrying the railway to Damascus, has a 
good stream and abundant vegetation ; over the water- 
shed is the prosperous village of ez-Zebedani with a 
fertile plain on the head waters of the Abana. Between 
the ridges that the Jebel esh-Sherki throws out east- 
ward to the desert there are a number of other brooks 
and copious springs, beside which some 8 or 10 villages 
thrive among their vineyards, fig and pomegranate 
orchards, meadows, less frequent wheat fields and some 
poplars. But these lands are liable to be overrun in 
spring by the desert Arabs who exact blackmail when 
they do not plunder or settle down themselves to sow 
and reap the fields. For even on these heights may 
be seen that process which from the earliest times 
has been constant down all the border of the Eastern 
Range — the gradual rise of tribes or of families from 
the nomadic to the agricultural level. 

The southern part of Anti-Lebanon, Mount Her- 
mon or the Jebel esh-Sheikh (9,050 feet), has more 
villages on its western slopes and fewer on its eastern, 


with luxuriant vines to 4,700 feet, and above that 
scattered oaks and pines and sometimes a thick bush, 
with wild but edible fruits. Snow falls deep in winter 
to the lower levels of the mountain and hardly dis- 
appears in summer from the summits. 

But the glory of Anti-Lebanon lies at its feet ; its 
chief creation is Damascus. The site of this most endur- 
ing of cities is defenceless, remote from the sea, and on 
no natural line of commerce, well out on the desert, 
which lies behind as well as in front of it. But the 
mountain, by gathering the greatest of its waters to a 
narrow gorge among its barren eastern folds, and then 
flinging the river far out on a lofty drainable plateau 
(about 2,250 feet above the sea), has created some 
hundred and fifty square miles of exuberant fertility. 
From this, known as the Ghuta, rises the oldest, the 
largest and richest, the most steadfast of all the cities of 

Damascus has survived the rise and fall of several 
systems of religion. She has been harried and held by 
all the great empires of antiquity and the Middle Ages, 
and has seen them perish. Her only rival in Syria 
has been Antioch, and Antioch has decayed while 
Damascus still flourishes. In addition to her own 
fertility, she has learned to bend to herself most of the 
through traffic between the Nile and Mesopotamia ; 
she is the outpost of civilisation in the Desert, and 
an indispensable market to the nomads of all Northern 
Arabia. Before the war her population was at least 
200,000 with that of her suburbs ; some rate it at 

Down the southern slopes of Hermon the Eastern 
Range falls swiftly upon the vast plateau of Hauran, 
with its hilly neighbours of Jaulan and Jedur above the 
Lake of Galilee. The northern levels of Hauran are 
from 2,000 to 3,000 feet above the sea, but on the south 
the plateau shelves off by broad degrees of about 1,600 
and 1,300 feet to its limit in the deep valley of the 


Yarmuk. The surface is volcanic, its rocks basalt, and 
its soil a rich, red loam. Treeless and with very few 
streams, except where its southern steps yield powerful 
waterfalls working many mills, the plateau bears abun- 
dant wheat and good pasture. 

Hauran wheat is in repute all round the Levant. 
Even in the insecurity to which the Turk for the most 
part leaves it, the harvests can be heavy ; they reach 
Damascus or the coast at Haifa in long camel caravans 
or, since 1895, by railway. Before the war the annual 
yield of grain was said to be 320,000 tons. Behind the 
Roman Limes Hauran was one of the granaries of the 
Empire. The ruins of public works — roads, aqueducts, 
reservoirs and fortifications — are still visible across it. 
A wealth of official and domestic buildings, with 
numerous inscriptions, testifies to the continued pros- 
perity of Hauran through the Byzantine period ; but 
the inscriptions almost cease from the time of the 
Moslem invasion, and the number of abandoned or half- 
occupied towns evinces the insecurity which has cursed 
the country ever since. Recent Turkish administration 
has somewhat improved matters, but this opulent 
province awaits a stronger government in order to 
become again one of the food-producing centres of 
Western Asia. 

On the east it is bounded by the rocky fastness of 
the Leja, a low deposit of hard lava some 26 miles by 20, 
the refuge at all times of turbulent tribes, and by the 
Druze-Mountain with a highly potential but at present 
a somewhat precarious cultivation. This eastern bulwark 
of Hauran, some 35 miles N. and S. by 20 E. and W., 
has an average height of between 4,000 and 5,000 feet 
(with a summit of 6,000), and gives birth to not a few 
springs and streams. It bears many ruins of Roman 
and Greek civilisation, and is said to support to-day 
some 40,000 Druzes, with a few " Mountain- Arabs, " as 
they are called, and some groups of Christians. Beyond 
the mountain is the desert — sand steppes and Harras 


wastes of lava, in the greatest of which lies the generous 
oasis of Ruhbe, once a Greek and Roman outpost. The 
desolate steppes on which Hauran runs out to the south- 
east, before the actual desert is reached, are rich in the 
Kali plant, of the ashes of which there is a considerable 
export to the soap-factories of Western Palestine. 

With the Yarmuk Valley, the Sheriat-el-Menadireh, 
the volcanic surface comes to an end and the limestone 
hills of Gilead begin with an average height of over 
3,000 feet and some summits of 4,000. Their ridges are 
covered with woods of the evergreen oak and other 
trees. The valleys and occasional plains, watered by 
numerous springs and streams, hold orchards of pome- 
granate, apricot and olive, and vineyards with a con- 
siderable export of raisins ; also not infrequent fields 
of wheat and barley, especially on the upper reaches 
of the Jabbok towards, and in, the country of the 
ancient Ammonites. But the feature of Gilead's life 
which lives most clearly in the traveller's memory is 
the wealth of its herds of cattle, large and small. For 
Syria, the streams are exceptionally numerous. 

Like those of Hauran, the fresh climate and fertility 
attracted Greek settlers and colonies of Roman veterans ; 
and Gilead still shows the imposing ruins of their opulent 
cities. The theatres at Gadara and Abila, the long 
aqueduct leading thither from Hauran, the columns at 
Arbela and Dion, the theatre, the agora, the colonnaded 
streets and the naumachy at Gerasa show how Europeans 
once prospered and enjoyed life to the full on those last 
margins of civilisation towards the desert. 

The southern boundary of Gilead towards Moab is as 
indefinite as that of Samaria towards Judaea ; but by 
the Wady Hesban the hills have ceased to roll, the 
woods have died out and we are again on a compact, 
treeless plateau. 

The high limestone table-land of Moab, 2,300 to 3,300 
feet above the sea, though — unlike the volcanic Hauran — 
broken by ribs and scalps of grey rock, is for the most 


part excellent soil for wheat, which grows richly across 
its spacious streamless extent without artificial aids, 
on the strength of the heavy rains and snows of winter. 
Where wheat is not possible the pasture is good, at 
least through the spring and early summer, and lasts 
still longer in the deep, well -watered canons that 
cleave the plateau from the desert to the Dead Sea. 

On the high, fresh moors the paths are all stamped 
with the footmarks of sheep and cattle, and in the 
height of summer you will find droves of them by the 
perennial streams in the bottoms of the canons. In 
ancient times Moab with Gilead provided meat and 
cereals for the people of Western Palestine ; and 
in 1904 the present writer met corn-brokers from 
Jerusalem negotiating for the harvests before they were 
reaped. Doughty says, not too strongly, that at Kerak 
" corn is almost as the sands of the sea." All this is 
in spite of the extremely low rate of the population to 
the square mile and of the desert raids to which the 
eastern border lies almost flat. 

In Byzantine times Moab appears to have been 
thickly peopled. You can stand hardly anywhere on 
the plateau, but eight or ten ruined villages, with 
Byzantine traces on them, are in sight ; and once there 
were also several largish towns with public works, 
including huge reservoirs for the winter rains, and not a 
few other marks of a high level of culture. The Arab 
geographers praise the grapes and almonds of Moab, 
and the English survey of the northern part of the plateau 
discovered many wine-presses. But except for a very 
few about Kerak the vineyards have vanished and 
there are almost no other fruit-trees. 

Bees abound, thriving on the wild blossoms, and there 
is (I was told) considerable harvest of honey. One of 
the canons, the Callirrhoe of the Greeks, enjoys great 
wealth of hot springs and streams, and all the canons 
afford a warm, and at their mouths a tropical shelter 
throughout the year. The plateau itself is wind-swept, 


healthy in summer and with a somewhat rigorous 
winter. The land was never famous for its industries, 
though the mosaic pavements discovered among some 
of its ruins are wonderful. 

Those deeply-marked alternate boundaries of Moab 
to the south, the Wady Mo jib, the ancient Arnon, and 
the Wady-el-Hesi (or el-Ahsa) have already been noted. 
South of the latter are the highlands of Edom, and this 
land also is of great fertility with some mineral resources 
that have not been worked since the time of the Romans. 

Such is the Eastern Range from the Anti-Lebanon 
to Mount Seir, fruitful, healthy and in part endowed 
with some hydraulic possibilities, but cursed by in- 
security. Along its eastern skirts, flattened to the 
desert, it presents to every possible government of 
Syria one of the heaviest of problems, which only the 
Romans have been able to solve — how to defend its 
opulence from the hungry and marauding tribes of 
Arabia. Within recent years the Turk has attempted 
this after a fashion of his own, playing off the Druzes and 
the Arabs against each other, and pushing out to the 
verge of the fertile soil colonies of Bulgar and Circassian 
Moslems to quarrel with and cut down the desert tribes. 
This policy affects only sections of the long frontier. 1 
Elsewhere the peasants of the Eastern Range snatch a 
precarious peace by blackmail to the Arabs. In such 
conditions long views and sustained enterprise in 
agriculture are impossible. 

The Discredited Turk. 

That, then, is Syria, over which for four centuries 
the Turk has held almost unbroken sway, with every 
opportunity to his hand that a fertile soil and a varied, 

1 The story of Turkish troubles in Hauran during the last 
thirty years is one of melancholy intrigue, slaughter and confusion 
— Druze revolts, serious defeats of Turkish forces, and then the 
achievement of the subjection of the Druzes by dividing them 
against each other. 


industrious population can offer to their rulers. We 
see the results : the decay of large areas of fertility, the 
huddling of the more intelligent elements of the popula- 
tion upon the barer, less profitable shelves of the land, 
the depression and embitterment of the rest of the 

The Turk succeeded to many difficulties, certainly 
to more religious and racial antagonisms than rankle 
in any other part of the world. These his merely 
nominal tolerance has poised and provoked against 
each other for his own ends ; but he has heaped up 
still greater evils by his economic neglect and fiscal 
oppression. Save for some sporadic efforts, he has been 
wanting in all for which a government exists — justice 
and security, the development of the natural resources, 
the organisation of public utilities, the encouragement 
of industry and trade — not to speak of education, in 
which his endeavours have been limited to a meagre 
number of primary schools, and a supply of fanatical 
instructors in the Moslem religion. Upon the social 
desert, into which he has turned nine-tenths of the 
country, the only oases are some hospitals, a few centres 
of higher education, the revival here and there of ancient 
water-supplies, a couple of good roads and a railway or 
two, with some examples of scientific and successful 
agriculture. But all these are due to other influences 
or inspired by other faiths than his own. 

The fact receives emphasis from the contrast between 
the parts of Syria under the direct rule of the Turk and 
the condition of the Lebanon which, since i860, has 
had a Christian Governor and Council beneath a 
Western Protectorate. In spite of enormous natural 
difficulties, agriculture and many industries flourish in 
Lebanon ; a number of excellent roads have been laid 
across its ridges ; and the population are as many as 
160 to the square mile, compared with an average of 
34*5 to the square mile throughout the rest of Syria. 
The contrast is decisive, and Lebanon stands as the 


proof of what all Palestine may become when emanci- 
pated from Turkish misrule. 

The Turk is an alien in Syria, with no native 
claim to the soil, and few or no family ties 
to the people. In Syria Turkish colonies do not 
exist ; the men of that race are either officials or 
soldiers. In short, the Turk has neither inherited 
nor earned any rights to Syria. His removal would 
present neither social nor economic difficulties. 

The Duties of His Successor 

Whatever government, national or international, 
succeeds him, the interests that it must be righteous, 
wise and strong enough to secure are clearly the follow- 
ing : the protection and restoration of the once 
fertile but now wasted areas of the country along 
with the development of other areas whose hitherto 
untested possibilities are assured by recent experi- 
ments on similarly arid soils in other parts of the world ; 
the security and freedom of the native populations ; 
subject to this, the claims of Israel for a home in the 
land; and then the development of those industries for 
which so many of the people have shown a remarkable 
aptitude, and of those opportunities for commerce that 
arise from the central position of the country. 

It goes without saying that religious liberty must be 
absolute, and that in such a land, and especially at some 
of its centres, the task of administering that liberty will 
require extraordinary strength, wisdom and tact. Finally, 
very important in itself, but subordinate to those other 
things, will be the archaeological responsibilities of the new 
government : the conservation of the countless monu- 
ments which so rich a history has bequeathed, and a 
methodical research into the many fields of the Syrian 
past, both above and below ground, that are still 


The Recovery of the Land 

As for the soil itself, or rather the various soils, it may 
be safely said that under care they are capable of a pitch 
of productiveness beyond that reached even in the 
most prosperous period of Syrian history. I leave 
Northern Syria at the summary descriptions given above 
and will write now only of the Lebanons and south- 
ward. Let us discount for the moment the glowing 
records of what Southern Syria has been to herself 
and the world about her. Let us reckon only her present 
aspect and products, with due allowance, of course, for 
the effects of four centuries of Turkish neglect and 
exaction, and the least conclusion we can draw is one of 
very fair promise. 

Even Judaea, with its washed-out slopes, shattered 
terraces and stony tableland, is not the bleached skeleton 
that some hurried travellers have sketched for us. It 
is still alive — gaunt, haggard and with bones protruding, 
because long starved and maltreated — but alive as 
even the most maltreated land abides in God's hands 
against better times. And Judaea is the least fertile 
part of Palestine. The acres of Philistia and Sharon, 
from which a scientific farming has recently succeeded 
in drawing two and even three times their former 
yield ; the constantly fruitful vales of Ephraim ; the 
almost unbroken wheat-field of Esdraelon ; the rich 
plains and slopes of Galilee ; the lower terraces of 
Lebanon ; the vast orchards of Damascus watered by 
the Abana ; the copious harvests of Hauran and Moab, 
with the wealth of Gilead's cattle — though all these three 
provinces lie exposed to the Arabs ; the tropical soil 
and climate of the Jordan Valley ; with the olive almost 
everywhere and nowhere fatter than on the limestone 
debris of Judaea and Galilee — these are the pledges of a 
rich and a varied future for a secure and emancipated 


But in addition to these there are steppes and arid 
bottoms in the land, as ready to be transformed by irri- 
gation or dry-farming as similarly unpromising districts 
have proved in California and other western States of 
America. To the present writer a journey into South 
California by the Mohave desert frequently recalled 
the aspects of various approaches into Syria through her 
encircling and obtrusive sands. The same natural 
difficulties, the same natural possibilities exist in the 
one region as in the other ; given the same methods 
under the direction of Western experience and it is not 
hard to believe that the same or similar results would be 
obtained in the East as in the West. 

It is not easy to estimate the possibilities of afforesta- 
tion. Caution is necessary with the glowing deductions 
that have been made from the data of ancient literature 
on the subject. The Old Testament word, rendered 
forest in our versions, is often only jungle and never more 
than woodland when applied within Palestine proper. 
The larger and more valuable timbers appear to have been 
imported from Lebanon, and it is to Carmel, Lebanon 
and Gilead alone that the sacred writers look for the 
ideal forest — the symbol of glory and pride. Elsewhere 
were only scattered woods, with sometimes thicker 
groves, of evergreen oak, terebinth, sycomore (only 
below 1,000 feet), carob, box, pine and cypress ; with, of 
course, the heavy and valuable plantations of walnut 
about Damascus. The afforestation of Syria was 
probably never much more than we find to-day, with 
perhaps some exceptions such as the oak-woods of 
Sharon that lasted till the Crusades and the huge 
palm-groves of the Jordan valley in the Roman 

But all this is far from being the measure of the 
capacity of Palestine as a timber-bearing country. 
It does not appear that a full chance of proving this capa- 
city has ever been given the land — either by the con- 
servation of its existing woods or by planting new ones. 


Under the Turk the waste has been reckless, and there 
has been very little re-planting. On the other hand, a 
few foreign attempts, chiefly with pines, have succeeded, 
and there is no natural obstacle to their extension over 
considerable areas unfit for other crops. But it is 
beyond Palestine proper that the chief hope of timber 
must remain. One of the first tasks of a new govern- 
ment shorld be the endeavour to restore the forests of 
Lebanon by the plantation of the higher ridges. On the 
skirts, too, of that mountain and of Hermon, especially 
about the sources of Jordan, large trees flourish, and the 
pinewoods south of Beyrout show what is possible 
there and on other sandy stretches of the coast. 

Except about the Dead Sea and other volcanic 
districts, the mineral resources of Palestine are meagre, 
and even there still uncertain. 1 In the southern Hauran, 
Gilead and the Jordan Valley we have seen unusual 
energies of water-power waiting to be applied to 
agriculture and the handicrafts. 

It has been asserted that the decay of Syria is largely 
due to a change of climate, including a great diminution 
of the rainfall. But of this few signs exist except, at 
first sight, in the perplexing case of the Negeb. 2 On the 
other hand, there is close correspondence between the 
relevant data in the Bible and Talmud and the physical 
facts of to-day. That the change, if any, has been so 
slight as to be negligible is the opinion of the great 
majority of modern authorities, and the present writer 
is convinced that it is the right opinion. There is a 
possible explanation even of the Negeb. It is true 
that a considerable agriculture once prevailed here, 
and that no remains of aqueducts have been found to 
enable us to assign the cause to irrigation from the 
outside. But the structure of the country allows the 
possibility of many wells, and the disappearance 

1 See the present writer's Jerusalem, Vol. I., pp. 330 rT. 

2 See p. 23 of this book. 


from the Negeb of its ancient prosperity may be due to 
the loss of that political security without which the 
digging of wells, however industrious, is but a vain 

The Native Peasantry or Fellahin 

Of the human factors which demand the care of a 
just government none — not even the Jews — have a 
stronger claim than the native peasantry. In a land 
whose history has been so filled with invasion and 
migration, the peasants are bound to be of diverse 
stocks ; and from district to district they vary in stature, 
physiognomy, mental force and culture. In the main 
they are Semitic, but have sprung from three distinct 
families of that race : the ancient Canaanites who 
entered Palestine about 2,500 B.C. ; the Arameans who 
arrived about the same, time as Israel — to-day both 
pure Arameans or (in Lebanon) Arameans probably 
crossed by a Greek strain ; and Arabs who have drifted 
and still drift in from the desert, gradually passing 
from herding to tillage and from tents to stone hovels 
and houses in settled villages, large and small. 

In parts of Northern Syria there also appear some 
Israelites of a long descent in the land. In other 
parts an Iranian element is found. In Southern Syria 
the native peasants are mostly Moslems, but with a 
considerable number of Christians and Druzes. 

But whatever their varieties the fellahin have these 
things in common — that they labour, and for centuries 
have laboured, on the soil ; that they are therefore the 
basis of the people and the state ; and that all through 
history, but most cruelly under the Turk, their genera- 
tions have borne the sorest service and suffering. On 
them have fallen most heavily the sirocco, the drought, 
and the consequent famine ; and it is their smaller 
communities which have been most badly broken by the 
plague as well as by the raids of Arabs from the desert. 


The abandoned villages of Syria are innumerable ; 
hardly ever is the traveller out of sight of their ruins ; 
on the maps of Palestine no designation is more frequent 
than " Khirbet," which means a ruined, forsaken 
hamlet. Ancient or recent, these fragments of deso- 
lation are the most damning witnesses to the insecurity 
of the land under Oriental rule. 

In recent years the economic condition of the Syrian 
peasant has steadily declined. Property in land (which 
is not wakf, or devoted to religious purposes) is of two 
kinds — mulk, or " owned," that is freehold, generally 
near to towns or villages, and mostly consisting of 
gardens or orchards ; and ^amiriyeh, " Emir's," or 
" State land," held in common by the village, and also 
called " Undivided land," which is invariably arable 
and is annually apportioned by lot among the families 
of the commune. 1 But in the last half-century this 
system has been rudely disturbed. After noting the 
" contrast between the poverty of the fellahin and 
the extent and fertility of the land owned by each 
village," Laurence Oliphant, who had long opportuni- 
ties of observing, traced this paradox to the intolerable 
increase of the rents or taxes, aggravated by the novel 
exaction of these in cash instead of in kind, with the 
result that the peasants are thrown into the hands 
of the usurer, who demands from forty to fifty per cent, 
of interest on the cash he advances. Consequently 
much of the private and communal property of the 
peasants had at first to be mortgaged and then sur- 
rendered to the alien capitalist. Already in 1886, says 
Oliphant, the peasants of Esdraelon and the maritime 
plain were " rapidly losing proprietorship in the soil 
and becoming serfs." 

It is true that the new proprietors have introduced 
improvements — better ploughs, hoes, barns, and so 
forth. But the State has done nothing for the land, 

1 For references see the present writer's Jerusalem, Vol. I., 
p. 280. 


though its revenues have increased. Outside certain 
properties of the Sultan, little attempt at irrigation 
has been made, no proper roads have been laid down. 
In 1891 in southern Hauran I saw part of a plentiful 
harvest sacrificed for want of means of transport. 
In spite of such conditions some villages manage to 
thrive, and some farmers, notably Christians, appear to 
be tolerably wealthy. It is difficult to say how far these 
exceptions have been rendered possible by suscepti- 
bility to bribes on the part of officials whose salaries are 
always in arrear. 

Estimates of the industry and ability of the Syrian 
peasant vary very much. Indolence is often imputed 
to him, and the charge, even if it were generally true, 
would not be surprising in view of the conditions just 
sketched. What stimulus of hope is possible under 
such a government ? But the charge is not generally 
true. The mass of the peasantry, men and women, 
have to work hard, for they work for bare life, and one 
has frequent occasion to admire their starved patience 
and unblessed industry. Villages differ in character. 
Some are notoriously dishonest, malignant to strangers, 
fanatic against other faiths than their own. Others 
are the reverse, peaceable, courteous to travellers, not self- 
seeking, and controlled by sheikhs, whom I have often 
found gentlemen and helpful. In some communities 
Christians, Jews and Moslems live in amity. 

The ignorance of the fellahin is generally deep, but 
that is not their fault. On the other hand one dis- 
covers a remarkable shrewdness among them, worthy of 
far better opportunities. There is generally a healthy 
discipline ; the good example of the elders, whether 
men or women, is revered and their counsel obeyed. 
Certain districts produce capable artisans. There is 
through the land a considerable body of folk-song, of 
no mean lyric quality. Drudges as most of the fellahin 
must be for the greater part of the year, into what good 
spirits, what jest and song and dance they will burst 


at harvest and other festivals ! Mr. Hogarth says : 1 
" There is no more enterprising, no keener intellect in 
the Nearer East than the Syrian of the Fringe . . . 
the inhabitants of the Lebanon and the Syrian littoral." 
He ascribes this excellence to the increased quality of 
the staples of life ; " where the * Arab ' (to use the 
ethnic widely) lives under conditions similar to the 
Greek he resembles him at many points, both physical 
and mental." But may not this excellence be partly 
due to the crossing of the Semite by a Greek strain ? 
And in the Lebanon we cannot forget what is more 
certain, the comparative freedom and security enjoyed 
by its inhabitants for two generations. Their 
superiority is the pledge of a general rise in the moral 
and mental level of the Syrian peasantry as a whole, 
when those blessings shall have been extended to all 
the land by a strong and a just government. 

The Claims of the Jews 

The claim of the modern Jew to a " national home " 
in Palestine is threefold : — by right of the history of his 
fathers, by right of his own devotion to the ideal of a 
national life, and by right of his recent successful 
exertions on the soil. To assist the fulfilment of his 
ideal is only a part of what the civilised world owes 
to the Jew, because of his spiritual service to mankind 
and because of the treatment he has suffered from other 
races since he was driven from his land. In the face of 
inconceivable difficulties the Jew (as we have seen) 
has given proof of his practical ability not only to develop 
the resources of Palestine but thereby to enable 
it to contribute once more to the general interests of 
civilisation, as from its position and fertility it is so well- 
fitted to do. 

We must not forget to do justice to the German settlers 

1 The Nearer East, p. 194. 


at Haifa and on Sharon, the pioneers of revived 
agriculture in Syria. Laurence Oliphant, who for a 
number of years was their neighbour, bears witness to 
their honesty, their thoroughness, and the influence of 
their example on the natives. But according even to 
their friends the Turks, the effect of the work of the 
Germans has been merely local. In agricultural results 
and in influence on the peasantry they have been far 
outdone by the Jewish colonists on the Maritime Plain 
and in other districts. 1 

It is not surprising, therefore, that during the last 
twenty years there has been a rapid growth of the 
idea of " Palestine for the Jews " among both themselves 
and other peoples. The labours of Dr. Herzl and the 
influence of the Zionist Congress in Basle in 1897, over 
which he presided, gave the movement its strongest 
spiritual impetus from within Jewry. But both its 
hopes and many of its immediate claims have received 
an increasing amount of recognition from the Press 
and from responsible statesmen among the great Powers. 
It is not a few years ago that Lord Cromer declared that 
" Zionism is fast becoming a practical issue." 

But if practical before the war it has become immensely 
more so as the war has gone on. Since the Turk, in 
any case an alien and a discredited alien, has further 
shaken his hold on Syria by his alliance with the enemies 
of civilisation, the hopes of the Jews and the sympathies 
of the great Powers have naturally ripened. With 
the Belgians, Serbians, Montenegrins, Roumanians, 
and Armenians, the Jews have been recognised as one 
of the weak peoples for whose national freedom the 
Allies are battling. Their right to " a home " in Pales- 
tine with some degree of autonomy has been affirmed 
by democratic parties in Great Britain, in other European 
countries, and in America ; and has been acknowledged 
by more than one of the Allied Governments. 

1 See above, p. 18, 


Even in Germany the strength of the Jewish claims 
upon Palestine is admitted — always, of course, with 
respect to Germany's bonds to her Turkish ally. 
With the exception of the Roman Catholic organs, the 
German Press has welcomed the prospect of a large 
return of the Jews to the Holy Land on the grounds that 
44 Jews have already learned to support themselves 
there," that their settlement " would benefit the native 
Arabs " (sic), that 44 the Turks have always been tolerant 
of Jews," and that Jews have ever been disposed to be 
loyal citizens of the Turkish Empire and 44 can be of 
economic advantage to it." On the other hand in Italy 
Baron Sonnino has pronounced that 44 Palestine must be 
freed from the Turkish yoke ; once so freed it would be 
neutralised and internationalised, and declared an 
independent State " with due regard of course to Jewish 

But the most momentous factor in the Zionist move- 
ment is Mr. Balfour's declaration on behalf of the British 
Government that 44 it views with favour the establish- 
ment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish 
people and will use its best endeavours to facilitate the 
achievement of this object, it being clearly understood 
that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the 
civil and religious rights of non-Jewish communities in 
Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by 
Jews in any other country." 

So far has the movement progressed. Its strength 
is clear, its prospects bright — especially since the capture 
of Jerusalem by a British force — and the devotion to its 
ideals of large numbers of Jews undoubted. It has the 
sympathy of the Allied Powers as of their peoples be- 
hind them, and even the Master of the Turk acknow- 
ledges that a place must be found for the Jews within 
the political future of Syria. Yet even so, one must be 
impressed with the vagueness which still envelopes the 
hopes and purposes of Zionism. It is clear that Jews 
are ready, and must be allowed, to settle in Palestine, 


in very greatly increased numbers, for the cultivation 
of the soil (of their fitness for which they have given 
solid proof) and with a certain degree of autonomy, 
free to express their " national " as well as their 
religious and economic aspirations. 

Beyond this and the firm conditions happily laid down 
by the British Government, nothing is yet definite. 
However deserving of our sympathy, the Jewish claims 
have not been so thought out in face of the present facts 
of Palestine as to command our unqualified support. The 
uncertainty is not only due to the fact that the war is 
unfinished and the political future of Syria is still in 
suspense, nor only to the difficult international questions 
that will have to be settled, if and when the Turkish 
power in Syria is abolished. 

The vagueness is also due to division of opinion 
among the Jews themselves, and to the fact that in 
enthusiasm for the undoubted justice of their 
aspirations Zionists appear to ignore or at best unduly 
to depreciate the economic and social difficulties 
in the way of a " national " Jewish restoration, and in 
particular that the very grave questions of the area of 
the Jewish home and of its frontiers have not been 
as yet even fully stated, far less discussed or 
answered. To answer these questions is not within 
the scope of this essay ; but in the interest of the 
education of the public it is necessary to endeavour to 
state them. We do so first by inquiring more 
exactly what are the Jewish aspirations, and then by 
observing how they are encountered and affected by 
the existing conditions of Palestine, physical and social. 

A portion of British Jewry, in number a minority, but 
of intellectual force and apparently supported by a 
body of Jewish opinion in America, looks for the estab- 
lishment in Palestine of a community of Jews which, 
while economically independent, shall exist mainly for 
religious purposes, " a source of inspiration to the whole 
of Jewry " — the Jewish communities throughout the 


rest of the world meantime continuing to cultivate 
" complete social and political identification with the 
nations among whom they dwell." 

This, of course, is far short of the " national " ideal 
of the Zionists. It is the old controversy whether the 
test of a Jew is his religion or his nationality. But 
it is complicated by the fact that while the limitation 
of Jewish hopes of Palestine to a Jewish community 
existing there for mainly religious purposes is advocated 
by the less rigorous parties in Judaism, the Zionist 
demand for the restoration of the Jewish nation in 
Palestine — " for Judaism is not only a creed but a 
nationality " — is supported by parties ardently orthodox 
and many of them profoundly spiritual. 

Nor are the Zionists themselves of one mind. There 
are the extremely political Zionists, who demand the 
creation of an autonomous Jewish state under inter- 
national guarantees, and offer Belgium as an example 
of what they mean. But moderate, or, as they call 
themselves, " practical," Zionists, realising that the 
Jews now are, and for some time must still be, a minority 
in Palestine, and " preferring the line of safe and sure 
development," disclaim the idea of an independent 
Jewish state, and plead only for the restoration of their 
people as a nationality. 

As one has said of the Zionist Congress : "It was not 
to establish a Jewish State to-day or to-morrow that 
we went to Basle, but to proclaim aloud to the whole 
world : ' The Jewish people still lives and wants to 
live.' " But this restoration to Palestine, which " prac- 
tical " Zionists demand, is not the restoration of a 
vast number of individual Jews as free citizens of 
whatever state may be established there, nor merely 
the extension of the present system of Jewish colonies 
owning scattered districts with freedom to manage 
their own business and local affairs. It is the establish- 
ment of the Jews as a nation, " under Jewish law, in 
possession of the whole of the Jewish land," and using, 


of course, the Hebrew language. Their own words are 
" a Jewish Palestine," " the establishment of a Jewish 
national home " (which appears also in Mr. Balfour's 
declaration), " a home for Judaism, for Jewish civilisa- 
tion as well for some millions of Jews, in the ancient 
land of Israel." Or again, " We want Palestine, the 
whole country, to be the home of the Jews, and we want 
to live under our own laws, not indeed with the outward 
shell of a State, but with the inner kernel of free and 
independent institutions." 

It would not be at all fair to interpret this 
desire as one for all the blessings, without any of the 
heaviest responsibilities, of nationality. The desire is 
most natural — perhaps the only one possible — to a 
people who, while heroically preserving their national 
spirit through eighteen centuries of dispersion and 
many persecutions, are without the experience or the 
means required for government and its international 
duties. Towards the fulfilment of a national restora- 
tion Zionists reckon, not without reason, on the migra- 
tion of millions of Jews to Palestine. However Jewry 
may be divided in opinion as to the shape which that 
restoration should take, there is little doubt that, 
given freedom to return and possess land under their 
own laws, Jews would resort to Palestine in sufficient 
numbers to form a nation. Moreover, there is room for 
them in the country ; from what we have seen its capacity 
to support them is not to be denied, nor, as their colonies 
have shown, can we doubt their ability to develop this. 

It is also natural that at this stage of the war Jewish 
opinions should not be agreed as to what is to be the 
supreme power in Palestine. Some Zionists, perhaps 
the wisest, refrain from making any proposals. Others 
conceive of a wide but undefined international suzerainty, 
others of a protectorate by a single great Power, or of a 
condominium by two or three ; while some non-Jewish 
writers suggest that this should be assumed by France, 
Italy and Britain. 


But many Jews deprecate the idea of a condominium, 
the risks and failures of which have been experienced else- 
where, and claim that the protectorate must be single. 
Great Britain and the United States have each been 
named as the Power most desirable in the circumstances, 
British Jews and in particular the British Palestine 
Society strongly pleading for the former. Their phrase 
is "a free nationality within the British Empire " ; 
their reasons, that free nationalities, prosperous and 
contented, already exist within that Empire— the Jewish 
would only be one more. 

To complete this account of Jewish opinion it is 
necessary to add that some Zionists also appeal to British 
interests. They seek to show that the Judsean plateau 
is " the needed bulwark of the Suez Canal," " the outer 
bastion of Egypt, " and that " the natural buffer-state to 
Egypt is Palestine." 

Such are the aspirations of the Zionists and the plans 
of some of them. How do they bear upon the existing 
facts of the situation ? 

Religious Questions 

We may take first the religious facts, though, except 
in one respect, that of the holy places, the religious facts 
are not the most difficult or acute. Were Jewish influence, 
social and political, to become predominant in Palestine — 
if only through sheer force of numbers — I do not think 
it would prove intolerant to other creeds. Delicate and 
even dangerous as the relations of religions have always 
been in Syria, and fanatic against other faiths as fractions 
of the Jewish population might prove to be, the general 
spirit of the modern race is tolerant, and with inter- 
national guarantees for religious liberty, can be 
trusted to subdue the passion or arrogance of groups of 
its own people. 

The particular question of the sacred places is more 
dangerous ; it will always be difficult whatever race or 


faith may prevail in the land. x How would Jewish 
influence treat it ? I have seen general promises by 
Zionists on the subject. But it is when one comes to 
details that the danger first rises. You may make 
Jerusalem an international, a free or neutral, city, with 
rights equal to Christians, Jews and Moslems. But how 
does the Jew propose to decide between himself and 
the Moslem the question of the possession or of the use 
of the sacred Rock beneath the Mosque of Omar, or of 
the Mosque at Hebron ? 

Economic Questions 

There are other and even more serious difficulties 
connected with the restoration of the Jews to Palestine 
which must be faced before the political future of that 
country and of those who have claims upon it is deter- 
mined. There is the case of the native fellahin. We 
have seen what their stake in the land is, what rights in 
the soil they have earned, what claims their centuries 
of service and suffering give them upon the sympathies 
of the free democracies by whom their fate will have to 
be decided. 2 

With regard to these claims, it is not enough to say, 
as some Zionists have done, that there is room in the 
land both for the " Arabs " (as Zionists erroneously 
call them) and for the Jews. When Jewish writers 
claim " the whole country for the Jews," when they 
write of " the re-settlement and rebirth of Palestine " 
as " the national centre " of " the Jewish nation," 
have they realised the economic and social disturbances 
which the execution of this claim would involve ? It is 
useless to compare the claims of the Jews on Palestine 
with the rights of the Belgians to Belgium. When the 
Belgians are restored to their land it will not be at the 
risks of a native peasantry different from themselves, 
who have owned and lived by its soil for centuries. 

1 See above, p. 5. * See above, p. 38 fi. 


How do Zionists propose to preserve the legal rights 
and secure the social health of the fellahin, or to prevent 
the continuation of that process of buying and crushing 
them out of their communal property, by which so 
many have already been reduced to the position of serfs ? 
It is no duty of the present writer to answer these 
questions ; but while Jewish hopes are high and legiti- 
mately high, it is right to point out what difficulties lie 
in the way of their equitable fulfilment, and what very 
serious economic details have still to be thought out. 

In illustration, an experience may be quoted. On 
visiting a recently established Jewish colony in the 
north-east of the land, round which a high wall had been 
built by the munificent patron, I found the colonists 
sitting in its shade gambling away the morning, while 
groups of fellahin at a poor wage did the cultivation 
for them. I said that this was surely not the intention 
of their patron in helping them to settle on land of 
their own. A Jew replied to me in German : " Is it 
not written : The sons of the alien shall be your plowmen 
and vinedressers?" 

I know that such delinquencies have become the 
exceptions in the Jewish colonisation of Palestine, but 
they are symptomatic of dangers which will have to be 
guarded against. When we hear that Jews desire to 
live under their own laws in Palestine, and rightly 
sympathise with that desire, we must at the same time 
take sureties that these laws shall not include those of 
the Old Testament which might encourage baser Jews 
to the " sweating " of the natives as hewers of wood and 
drawers of water. 

The Limits of the Jewish Area 

Again there is the question of the limits of the Jewish 
area with all the difficulties it raises, both ethnic and 
strategic. Zionists claim for the Jews " the whole 
country " of Palestine ; and one writer adds : " there 


must be no partition of Palestine ; the Jew in Galilee 
must not be cut off by an international frontier from the 
Jew in Jerusalem." But what is Palestine? Save 
under the Romans, the name has never had exact 
borders ; to-day it is perhaps more vaguely applied 
than at any other time. 

Which of the possible lines of division we have seen 
round and across Syria are to be the frontiers of the 
new Syria, when the Turk is forced to relinquish the 
land and some other Power or Powers assume authority ? 
And when these frontiers have been settled, on ethnic 
and military considerations, how much of what they 
embrace is to belong to the Jewish people as a nationality, 
and to be administered under Jewish law ? 

Some regions may at once be ruled out of the Jewish 
sphere ; others are doubtful ; others we cannot exclude. 
There is Middle Syria between two definite borders, the 
Nahr el-Kebir on the north and the Nahr el-Kasimiyeh, 
and containing the Lebanon. What rights, historical 
or moral, have the Jews to this ? For at least fifteen 
centuries Lebanon has been Christian territory, and as 
we have seen has enjoyed since 1860 a separate consti- 
tution with a Christian governor under the protection 
of the Powers of Europe. The population is about 400,000, 
of whom 320,000 are Christians, 50000 Druzes and the 
rest Moslems, with practically no Jews. There is 
Beyrout with a population of over 100.000 of whom two- 
thirds are Christian and the rest Moslem. There 
is also the Phoenician coast south of the Kasimiyeh with- 
out a single memory of Jewish occupation or of the 
influence of Jewish culture. There is Eastern Palestine 
separated from Galilee and Judaea by the deep trench 
of the Jordan and Dead Sea. What is the evidence of 
history as to Jewish rights over these eastern provinces ? 

Except when Herod had the legions of Rome behind 
him the Jewish nation failed to exercise authority or 
keep order in Hauran in parts of Gilead and in Moab. 
Their conquests were temporary, their settlements 


inconstant. The civilisation of those provinces was 
never Jewish but Greek, Roman or Byzantine ; and the 
last was long ensured by tribes of Christian Arabs — 
wardens of the marches — who themselves developed an 
impressive culture and have left, standing to this day on 
the desert-margins, monuments of their ability and char- 
acter. These Arab Christians have not died out ; scattered 
communities of them still endure east of the Jordan, 
as far south as Kerak, at other points in Moab 
and Gilead, and even in Hauran and on the Druze- 
Mountain. Again, there is the Negeb, where the only 
remains of settled life are Byzantine. There is Philistia, 
only occasionally in Jewish hands. 

There is Damascus itself, the largest city and the 
real metropolis of Syria, in which the Jew never had 
rights except the right to trade ; and the moral claims 
to predominance are shared by the Christian and the 
Moslem. 1 

Judaea, Samaria and Galilee are left. Is the 
whole of each of these to be the area of the Jewish 
" national home " ? The religious history of Jerusalem 
and the devotion to her of so many living faiths point 
to the conclusion that the city and its territory should 
be absolutely neutral under international guarantees. 
But if the rest of Western Palestine be given back to 
the Jewish people as a people, what of the Christian 
communities within it, especially in Bethlehem and 
its neighbourhood — where they have given as good proof 
as many Jewish colonists of their power to farm the 
soil — and in Nazareth and its neighbourhood, also at 
other points. Napoleon when he camped on Esdraelon 
was impressed by the numbers of Christians from Galilee 
who came to do him homage ; since then they have not 

Thus the claims of the Zionists, strong though they 
be, raise larger and more detailed questions than their 

1 See above, p. 28. 


copious literature has discussed or even stated. The 
Zionist rightly appeals to history ; but his appeal must 
be decided on wider and more complicated considera- 
tions than he advances — not only the Jewish associa- 
tions and achievements in Palestine, but Jewish limita- 
tions and failures as well, along with the rights that 
other races and faiths have undoubtedly earned in that 
doubly and trebly sacred land. 

It is not true that " Palestine is the national home of 
the Jewish people and of no other people." It is not 
correct to call its non-Jewish inhabitants " Arabs," or 
to say that " they have left no image of their spirit and 
made no history — except in the great Mosque." We 
may rule out the Franks, their brief discipline of Syria 
and the many monuments of this that remain. But 
what of the native Christians, Syrian and Greek ? 
They doubtless claim that their faith is the moral heir 
of all that was best in ancient Judaism. 

If agreement on that question is impossible, 
there remains the other, which we cannot evade, of 
the fact of the living Christian communities. Have 
they not been as long in possession of their portions of 
the land as ever the Jews were ? Is not Palestine the 
birthplace of their faith also and its fields as sacred to 
Christians as to Jews ? Has Christianity " made no 
history" and "left no image of its spirit" on the Holy 

These are legitimate questions stirred by the claims 
of Zionism, but the Zionists have not yet fully faced 
them. In short, the Jewish question in the Holy Land 
cannot be decided by itself, nor merely upon general 
assurances that " the rights of other creeds and races 
will be respected " under Jewish dominance. Obviously 
a very great deal of difficult detail has still to be thought 
out by the Powers of Europe — and the democracies 
of Europe educated in the thinking thereof — before 
the future of Syria can be settled on lines of justice 
and security for all nations and creeds alike. 


The Frontiers of New Syria 

A mere allusion has been made to the wider question 
of the frontiers of the New Syria as a whole. At this 
stage it is premature to attempt a full answer to the 
question. But our survey of the land has made some 
outlines more or less clear. 

The southern border of Syria, from time immemorial, 
has been a line drawn from el-Arish on the coast to the 
head of the Gulf of Akaba — all the desert beyond has 
been regarded as belonging to Egypt. Under the condi- 
tions of ancient and mediaeval warfare, and indeed down 
to the time of Napoleon, this desert was considered as 
strong a barrier and bulwark as is possible between two 
States. In Napoleon's own words : " De tous les 
obstacles qui peuvent couvrir les frontieres des empires 
un desert pareil a celui-ci est incontestablement le plus 
grand . . . car, si on a tant de difficult^ a transporter 
les vivres d'une armee que rarement on y reussit com- 
pletement, cette difficulty devient vingt fois plus grande, 
quand il faut trainer avec soi l'eau, les fourrages et le 
bois, trois choses d'un grand poids, tres dimciles a 
transporter et qu'ordinairement les armies trouvent 
sur les lieux." 

Modern means of transport have indeed rendered the 
Syro- Egyptian desert somewhat less formidable ; yet 
even so wc niay doubt the Zionists' contention (by which 
they appeal to British interests) that Egypt and the 
Suez Canal require " a buffer state " in Palestine, and 
more particularly on the Judsean plateau. And, besides, 
if this State is created, where is its own northern frontier 
to run ? Hardly over Esdraelon, for that, as we have 
seen, is neither a political nor a strategic border. 1 If the 
next natural line were chosen, the Nahr-el-Kasimiyeh," 
then " the buffer State " would itself require a buffer, 

1 See above, p. 13. * See above, p. 12. 


for its northern frontier would run defenceless against 
the foot of a great mountain- wall. But in any case the 
argument for a Judaean buffer to Egypt is not conclusive. 
A friendly State in southern Syria would indeed be a 
support, but not an indispensable support, to the 
security of the Canal or of Egypt. 

If Lebanon, or the Lebanons, be created a Christian 
province which they essentially are, and already in 
1860 were recognised to be by the Great Powers of 
Europe, the natural boundaries would be those which 
have frequently formed political frontiers — the Nahr-el- 
Kebir to the north and the Nahr-el-Kasimiyeh on the 
south; and Beyrout would have to be brought in. 
But how is Damascus to be related to such a 
province ? Bound to the Lebanons by many ties of 
neighbourhood and trade, as well as by the blood of 
a large part of its population, Damascus carries far 
wider responsibilities than these both to the rest of 
Syria and to Arabia, and therefore in any recon- 
struction of the nearer East stands a problem by itself. 

North of the Lebanons the possible frontiers are two * 
— first the westward bend of the Orontes to the sea, 
and then the Taurus itself. But the questions they 
raise, with the kindred question of Aleppo, depend for 
their answers on the settlement of the political future 
of Mesopotamia — a subject beyond the scope of our 
present inquiry. 

Finally, there is the Eastern frontier. This can hardly 
be the Jordan-Orontes Valley. It is impossible to 
conceive of the provinces over Jordan and the Orontes 
as excluded from the New Syria. But if they are 
included her government must be of a power sufficient 
to render their open borders on the desert secure against 
tribes of whom there can be no hope for some time that 
they will respect civilisation's ideals of disarmament. 
Even if a stable government be founded in the Hejaz, 

1 See above, pp. 12, 20. 


it cannot be relied on as able to control the warrior hordes 
of Northern Arabia. The tribes which rove between 
Palestine and the Euphrates reckon their fighting-men 
by many scores of thousands ; a very large number of 
whom are armed with Martini-Henry and other modern 

For the peace and prosperity of Syria a strong Eastern 
frontier down the desert is essential. And is Edom to 
come within this frontier or to be left to the Arab, when 
the Turk is removed ? The last European government 
which held Western Palestine, that of the Crusaders, 
found it necessary to build fortresses in the Edomite 
highlands and to push its arms by that direction as far 
as the Gulf of Akaba — as the Romans did before it. 

All this is enough to make clear that the Power or 
Powers to whom the political future of Syria falls will 
have problems before them far more serious than any 
that Britain has had to solve in Egypt, and quite as 
heavy as those which gather along the northern and 
north-western frontiers of the Indian Empire. 

As I write these last paragraphs the news comes in 
of the liberation of Jerusalem from the Turk on the 
9th December by a British force, including troops from 
all the British Dominions over the seas and Indian 
Moslems, as well as French and Italian detachments. 
It was, besides, the very day on which Jews celebrate the 
anniversary of her deliverance by Judas Maccabeus. 

In his solemn entry to the Holy City the British 
General was accompanied by the attaches of France, 
Italy, and the United States of America. Guardians 
were appointed for all the Christian sanctuaries. The 
Indian Moslems were put in charge of the Mosque of 
Omar, and the hereditary Moslem custodians of the 
gates of the Holy Sepulchre were requested to con- 
tinue their accustomed duties in remembrance of the 


magnanimous act of the Khalif Omar who protected 
that Church. 

May this wonderful beginning — even it it is not 
followed by the harmless conquest of the rest of the Holy 
Land — be the earnest of the creation, for the first time on 
earth, of a government devoted wholly to Peace, with 
no temptation to war in itself and no provocation to other 
States, because founded by the agreement and solemn 
guarantees of all peoples to whom the land is dear and 
holy. What fitter soil could be dedicated to this ideal, 
which we pray to be gradually fulfilled all the world 
over, than that on which the coming of the Prince of 
Peace was predicted, on which He was born and suffered 
and died, that He might draw all men to Himself and to 
one another ! 

In these pages we have been engaged with the merely 
material foundations, resources, and securities of the 
New Syria. Wide and rich as they are, pregnant with 
the fullest promise to the land and its various peoples, 
they cannot avail without the devotion of these peoples, 
and of the Western Governments and democracies which 
support them, to those principles and ideals of which 
the land's sons have been the prophets to mankind. 
In the words of one of them — until the Spirit be poured 
from on high and the wilderness become a fruitful field, 
and the work of righteousness be peace and the effect of 
righteousness quietness and confidence for ever ; and 
My people shall abide in a peaceable habitation and 
in sure dwellings and in quiet resting places. Then shall 
it be confidently said, Arise, shine, for thy light is come 
and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee ! 










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